Wrinkled fingers: hot bath effects

Three scientists from the Newcastle University have solved the mystery of the water-wrinkled fingers. Apparently, it's all in the genetics.


Surfing in cold water is an adventure. After a freezing experience in the icy waves, nothing better than a hot bath. The problem is when that warm bath is too long. Result: wrinkled fingers.

Kyriacos Kareklas, Daniel Nettle and Tom V. Smulders have discovered that wet objects are easier to handle with wrinkled fingers than with dry, smooth ones. Why does that happen?

The researchers from the Newcastle University believe that this is a genetic evolution from our ancestors' time, when they had to get food in wet conditions.

"If wrinkled fingers were just the result of the skin swelling as it took up water, it could still have a function but it wouldn't need to," explains Tom Smulders, from Newcastle's Centre for Behaviour and Evolution.

"Whereas, if the nervous system is actively controlling this behaviour under some circumstances and not others, it seems less of a leap to assume there must be a function for it, and that evolution has selected it. And evolution wouldn't have selected it unless it conferred some sort of advantage".

The hypothesis that water-induced finger wrinkles improve handling of submerged objects and that is was genetic adaptation to survival mode will continue to be studied.